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"Where else are they gonna go?": The culture clash at the heart of ComiXology and Amazon

According to insiders, there has been tension between Amazon and ComiXology since the latter was purchased nine years ago

Amazon Comixology
Image credit: Amazon

In January 2023, Amazon’s digital comics platform ComiXology was hit by significant layoffs as part of wider budget cuts at the parent company, with what was considered at the time to be somewhere between 50 and 75% of the roughly 100-strong workforce let go in one fell swoop. It was seen by many former staffers and customers alike as the beginning of the end for the company — but, as Popverse has discovered through conversations with multiple sources, the reality is far more complicated.

ComiXology was founded in 2007 by David Steinberger, John D. Roberts, and Peter Jaffe. The company wasn’t originally in the business of selling digital comics; that element, which would come to define the brand, wasn’t part of things for the first couple of years of its existence, with the company originally focusing on digital tools for fans and retailers alike to manage their current and future purchases.

Nonetheless, it was its digital comics market and delivery system ('Comics by ComiXology,' as it was originally marketed when introduced in 2009) that captured both users’ attention — especially when major publishers like DC and Marvel allowed the platform to sell digital editions on the same day that print editions hit stores in 2011 — and Amazon’s. It’s easy to see why Amazon would be interested; digital sales exploded initially, with sales jumping significantly year-on-year, with the growing success of tablets like the iPad, which debuted a year after ComiXology started selling digital releases, driving much of that initial growth. (2012’s sales were more than twice 2011’s, according to a 2013 New York Times story.) Meanwhile, its own attempt to push into the comic market, had seemingly stalled.

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About the Author
Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.